Retired judges, lawyers, professors and activists write to PM about migrant crisis

Image Courtesy: Reuters/Prashant Waydande

Several civil society members of the city of Allahabad have written an open letter to the Prime Minister urging him to take a closer look at how the decisions of the central government are to blame for the migrant crisis.

The letter by Retd. Justice Janardan Sahay, Retd. Justice Het Singh, Sri Ravi Kiran Jain (President PUCL), Prof. Alok Rai, Prof. Ranjana Kakkar, Prof. Raghoo Sinha, Prof. Kalpana Dwivedi, Prof. Nisha Srivastava, Sri Dinesh Dwivedi (Senior Adv. S.C.), Sri O.D. Sigh, Sri Harish Chandra Dwivedi (CITU), Anand Malviya, Avinash Mishra, Gayatri Gangoli, Adv. Kashan Siddiqui, Prof. Sri Ballabh, Anshu Malviya, Naresh Sehgal, Dr. Ashish Mital (GS, AIKMS) and others says, “We, citizens of Allahabad appeal to you to kindly take immediate cognizance of the extremely serious deprivation and misery of migrant labourers who have been forced to walk back thousands of kilometers to their villages in this sweltering heat of above 43 degrees centigrade.”

It adds, “This situation has been precipitated by the Union govt’s untimely and unthougtfull decision of stopping all railway and interstate bus transport on March 21 without warning, knowing fully well that it is planning to impose a complete lock down of all activities in the entire country in the wake of Corona Pandemic. Surely, you would be aware that more than 20 crore Indians work as migrant labour, mostly outside their state and almost 90% in the unorganized sector and that they live in rented private dwellings. It was obvious that neither this labour would be paid, nor would the house owners spare them a lease of even one day without rent.”

They then haul the government over the coals for “complete non application of scientific mind” and offer the following solutions:

1. Immediately start operation of all passenger trains and interstate bus services so that people are able to freely go back to their homes. Delay is making matters worse by the day.

2. Provide all migrant labour with food, footwear, medicines and money for their immediate needs. This is immensely possible for you as both your party and the state govt machineries are well equipped and experienced in catering to lakhs of Kanwarias and crores of Kumbh mela pilgrims. Simply passing orders to the officials is not of any help.

They also highlight certain glaring mistakes in the lockdown imposition as it has relevance even now.

a) Rural areas should never have been locked down at all as Corona virus, like all respiratory viruses spread mainly by prolonged contact inside closed doors.

b) People living in small dwellings should never have been forced to remain in doors and bastis should have been decongested. Only the old and sick should have been asked to be indoors.

c) Small shops and small trade should never have been stopped as large numbers never assemble under one roof in these.

d) Trains, buses and local transport should have been permitted, banning only closed AC buses and coaches as free airflow rapidly reduces chances of spread.

e) To allow all this, specific and detailed guidelines and help should have been and should even now be provided by the govt. for physical distancing, wearing of masks, washing of hands, avoiding face touching, etc. This has paid rich dividends in Japan, Taiwan and other countries which have fared well. In place of this police and state have been enforcing a lock down which is both impossible and insensible, considering that people also have to eat to live.

First published in Sabrang India.